Q & A: Matty Matheson on "Dead Set On Life", a VICELAND Series

I recently had the opportunity to spend the afternoon with Matty Matheson at VICE Canada where we lounged on traditional button tufted leather sofas, sipped on kombucha, and spoke on the topics of: being a new father, his relationship with his mentor Master Rang, the Canadian food culture, Drake's influence on the Toronto scene, how he turned his life around from being a "psycho drug addict, a fucking piece of shit, and a fucking shitty chef," and his new VICELAND series entitled, Dead Set On Life which premieres this Thursday, July 7th at 10PM ET/PT.

Firstly, I have to say congratulations on Baby Mac! How’s fatherhood treating you?

Amazing — it’s the best! It’s like, you’ve never felt these feelings before, you’ve never experienced anything like this before, and it’s cool — and it helps that he’s like, the cutest thing ever! 

How has being a father inspired you further — from personal to career wise?

Well I mean, everything is still so fresh but certainly having this responsibility of taking care of this other little human is cool.

I just want to make TV, I just want to kill it! All this shit happens and it’s like, what opportunities do I miss? Like, right now does he care that I’m home all the time? No. Now’s a good time to work and kill it. I was just gone for three weeks and I’m leaving on Friday for two and a half weeks because I’m working but it’s a different kind of work. If I was at the restaurant working this hard, it’s great but I’m still just at the restaurant. Now me working is like, me being in Louisiana for three days; then I gotta go to L.A. for fucking six days; then I come home; then I’m shooting a whole episode on Caribana and it’s going to be really really sick! 

Me and my wife have this super amazing relationship… She’s a business woman as well, she owns LOVERSLAND, so she understands. I’m like, ‘Yo, now’s the time and I know it sucks that it’s this time but this is the time.’ Financially it’s great. I’m building this thing and it’s cool, and I want to be able to get Mac everything and be able to take care of my family. I want to be able to buy a cottage one day, I want to be able to buy jet skis for the cottage. 

Like, my parents were always telling me, ‘If you want to have a kid, have a kid’ because your career will always be there, you can always make it happen. And for me, it happened when it happened. They said, ‘There’s no good time to have a kid’ and it’s true, like what’s a good time? What defines a good time? Sure, it’s hard on your relationship, it’s hard on life, it’s hard; it’s not an easy thing but it’s super fun. So me and Trish have fun. I mean she’s phenomenal. Trish is powerful. Dude, like home birth right on the bed, zero drugs, she killed it man! It was crazy! Trish is one hundred per cent selfless. 

The way that I feel about Mac is the way that I feel about Mac. The way that she takes care of him and supports him, the way she is with him is just amazing. It’s just really inspiring to watch someone that you love so much, take care of this thing that you love more than anything! I’m really grateful to have strong team. 

Secondly, congratulations on your new VICELAND series, Dead Set On Life! I pulled an all nighter binge watching every episode and literally crying, dying of laughter — it’s so good! I have to bring it up… Master Rang and your relationship! It’s the best! 

He’s the man! The biggest star of the show!

I know various publications ask you generic questions about you and Master Rang’s relationship so, tell me and viewers and readers alike, a fun fact or fun story about you two that you haven’t told publicly yet. Is there anything juicy to share?

Well, yeah! We used to hang out at, um, I won’t say the name of the place but we used to hang out at this Vietnamese spot after-hours and hang out; play cards, do drugs, drink, do whatever, and one night there was a stabbing and it was real. That was the last time I went there. But Rang was in pretty deep with the Vietnamese dudes, he was a mover and a shaker, and he was boss man, and he really took care of me. I was young. When I met him I was 23 and we hung out everyday for fucking four years and that’s really a big thing. We would go to a lot of sketchy weird Vietnamese after-hours together and have a lot of fun; drank a lot and lived a lot. 

And Master Rang named his son after you!

Yup, him and Kim named Matthew after me. Matthew is great man. It’s crazy because me and Rang, we didn’t really talk for a few years and not because of anything, it’s just I went my way and he worked at another restaurant and I worked at another restaurant, and we kind of just split our ways. Then when he told me Kim was pregnant, he said he was going to name his son Matthew and I was like, damn that’s crazy! Still to this day, it’s great and Matthew is amazing, he’s always so much fun to hang out with. 

Now Mac and Matthew are like mini you and Rang! 

Yeah, it could be another team! 

Okay, Dead Set On Life starts as an origin story so what was the importance of sharing and telling your story in the most honest, most raw, and most organic form?

Well, I think that’s the best way. It’s weird… People want to know the back story a little bit and fucking, they just want to know what’s up. Like who is this guy? Who is Matty? Where does he come from? Who’s Rang? And we go into Rang’s story… Rang comes back in the last episode in Newfoundland and it’s real. He hasn’t seen his last foster family in over 25 years and that’s a long time, it’s crazy! They were really nice which was great because Rang was handed off from multiple shitty abusive foster homes, and with this family he got to grow up with them and go through high school, they took care of him, he had brothers and sisters… I can’t fathom what that feels like, to come from Vietnam to Newfoundland and have abusive, fucking racists people taking care of you… That’s a crazy thing and Rang is really resilient. It’s really humbling. You don’t know anyone’s story, you don’t know what that person went through to get here; every single person in this world is broken a little bit. This is what I think is so good about this show, we don’t have these big celebrities, we just got people and that’s really what’s cool. 

I’m just some dude from fucking Fort Erie and I didn’t grow up rich, I grew up in the middle of the road, I had some crazy experiences in my life and me and my brothers were pretty fucking wild dudes — we grew up fighting and doing all kinds of shit that kids do in small towns. But it’s good to show that I used to work at Southsides making chicken wings… I’m just really grateful… I dropped out of college, I worked at Le Sélect, I worked at La Palette, I opened Oddfellows, we opened Parts & Labour, Dog & Bear, P & L Burger, P & L Catering, Maker Pizza, and all this stuff is amazing!

Did you ever see yourself being an entrepreneur? 

Yes and no. My dad was an entrepreneur so we had a lot of ups and downs — we had amazing times, sometimes we didn’t have amazing times. Being young I never thought, ‘I’m gonna be a boss.’ I never had that kind of weird ambition but now I have crazy ambition because I understand how life works now and I like, ‘Oh fuck! I want this but I have to do this, and this. and this, and this, and then I can have that.’ I want a fucking cottage, I want to buy a house in Toronto; that means I have to do a lot of different things to make money and I’m okay with that. If I’m making a show like this, I’m not doing some hokey pokey fucking Food Network bullshit, I’m not selling out, I’m just making shit that I want to make with a cool company and we’re fucking getting it! 

It’s epic that you’re telling and sharing these organic stories, real life shit, no fucks given kind of attitude. A lot of your viewers, fans, and followers are going to appreciate that and I’m sure they already do. 

Well yeah, I think you get what you give, and I’m giving my all. I’ve told my stories a million times and I don’t give a fuck. I got no regrets, I used to be a fucking psycho drug addict, I used to be a fucking piece of shit, I was a fucking shitty chef, and I turned that around.

 I truly believe everyone has potential, every single person; and it’s like, how do you grab that potential and turn it into something and turn yourself into something? I never thought I would do TV because I was like, ‘Nah, TV’s whack!’ I did so many sizzle reels with stupid production companies before any of this VICE stuff. Years ago, people would come up to me and be like, ‘You would be great on TV!’ These are producers who would come in and have dinner at Parts & Labour and I’d hang out and talk, and they’d say; ’You need to have a show! The way that you talk and the way that you are, and the way that you look…’ I was just a thing and I did so many stupid sizzle reels and I’m so happy that none of them worked out because I could have maybe gone a different way but everything is this weird serendipitous thing that’s actually organic and I could sleep at night real good. 

It’s not like I was banging down the door at VICE, it’s not like they were banging down the door on me; it was like, ‘Yo, let’s do something!’ and it worked out. I worked myself up, we did “Hangover Cures” and that did okay but then I stopped drinking, and I was like what am I gonna do? I want to keep making shows. They said, ‘Okay, you take care of yourself and we’ll get back on it.’ So I we got back on it and we did, “Keep It Canada” — cool. We didn’t know how to make television, we made “Keep It Canada” with two camera guys and a field producer and me. We would go to a place with zero research, zero nothing, let’s go to P.E.I., let’s go to here, let’s go here, and you could see that… It’s just me like, ‘Ahhh, I’m fucking here, I’m fucking new, I’m fucking doing all this shit, what the fuck is this place? Ahhh, lobsters, ahhh!’ But now, we have a show and it took all those steps.

I’ve been making shows for VICE for three and a half years and it’s not like this instant thing and I like that… I didn’t make one thing and it turned into this huge thing… No, I’ve been doing this for three and a half years, I’m fucking paying my dues, I don’t get everything I want, I still have to work and answer to people at VICE, and we’re building it. It’s like, walk down and fuck ‘em all! I don’t want to be this fucking flash in the pan, like no. I’m building this thing and I want to do everything! I think it’s really interesting stuff and I never thought I would speak in public and I’ve done a thing at Anomaly two years in a row. It’s crazy because just sharing a part of me is cool for me because I’m talking to other people and that human shit is real. I think it’s sweet that I can do this forever because it’s just me and I built this thing that’s entirely just me and my persona. If anything starts yelling on camera about food and beaking off, they’re gonna be ripping me off and it’s like, that’s my shit. 

Tell me about the importance on focusing on the Canadian food culture as opposed to focusing on North America overall or going international?

I focused on Canada because well, no one does it. I think Canada is amazing, I think it’s beautiful, I think it’s delicious — it’s a great culinary part of the world. 

People love watching travel shows and there are a lot of Canadian shows that have done Canadian travels shows but not like ours and that’s okay. 

Montreal has always got the shine, it’s always been that place where everyone loves going because it’s like fucking going to Europe — it’s beautiful, it’s got bistros, it’s amazing, it’s got great stripe clubs; it’s a cool crazy kind of place. 

Toronto has always had this thing where people think: Toronto-New York, Toronto-New York. Toronto-New York. I never got that because New York is fucking New York. People always say, ‘Toronto is kind of like New York,’ and I’m like, ‘No it ain’t!’ Toronto is like a small town, Toronto is small as fuck but I think it’s building its own identity. For example, Drake is a major part of that. Do I actually think he's the people’s people? No, I don’t but I definitely think he’s putting Toronto in a place where people fuck with it and I know a bunch of people in New York are now being like, ‘Oh yeah, Toronto!’ I think that’s really cool. I think a lot of people are putting on Toronto. That’s really amazing. 

I think that part of putting on Canada is a really cool thing right now and I think Americans seeing Canada through this show is going to be a really amazing thing! I’m really excited for that. I think it’ll make the show that much different in itself because everyone’s been to New Mexico, everyone’s been to El Paso, everyone’s been to fucking Seattle, everyone’s been to Boston; all these American cities! It’s a whole new fucking world for the world to see and they get to see Canada through my eyes, through our eyes. 

The food in Canada is amazing. I think Toronto’s China Town is just as good as Manhattan’s — it’s not as good as Flushing’s but it’s really fucking good. Our food culture: East Indian, West Indian, Jamaican, you name it; you go to fucking King Noodle and it’s phenomenal, you go to Markham and it’s like Flushing. The spectrum of ethnic food in Toronto is massive!

Is there a reasoning for order in episodes in season one? I realize you start and finish with Master Rang? Does Dead Set On Life go aboard in the future?

Well chronologically, we went how we shot them. Now we’re like, ‘Yo, we should’ve done this or we should do that,’ but it was our first season. Now we’re so ahead… We’re going to be done season two soon. I gotta shoot an episode in L.A. so in the second season we do go international. For example, in the first episode of season two, we go to Vietnam to bring Rang back to his village and we tell real heartwarming shit there, we go real deep into the village where he stole the boat in Hainan, and we do another episode in Hanoi in the North. Then we go to Louisiana; we did two episodes in Montreal where we did one super Québécois with poutine, smoked meat, shit that can only happen there; then we did one on kosher Montreal which is all kosher. So we’re getting into really themed stuff, like every episode is growing. That’s the thing that’s cool too — every show is very fucking different in the second season; like different tones, different fucking me. We go to Nunavut and it’s really kind of serious, we talk about food safety. The Nunavut one is very VICE, like the most VICE thing that I’ve ever done. I’m just trying to fucking live my life and put some shine on and hang out with some dudes, and hang out with some women, and hang out with some people doing cool shit. Every time we shoot the show it’s different now, we’re shaking up the formula, because now it’s an actual thing. People haven’t even seen it and I’m already bored of it in a sense where it’s like: Why do shows have to have a formula? Why do they have to be like this? Why do I have to yell every fucking time? I love the yelling but it’s like why do I always have to do that? Now it’s this thing. I want to control my shit as much as I can. Like every time I say something it’s a fucking catch phrase now with people Tweeting me, or DM’ing me, or all this shit.  

I’m just really excited to make TV that’s cool. That’s one thing I’m most stoked on is we get to reinvent ourselves, especially with the help from VICE where they’re like ‘Do whatever you want, go for it!’ I mean, who gets that shit where they’re like do what you want to do, what do you think is rad, don’t worry about formula, just make the show how you want it. That kind of support is amazing. 

The only thing that holds us back is our creativity and our imagination. Why aren’t people fucking killing it? Because they don’t have an imagination apparently, or they don’t dream. The only difference between doing it and not doing it, is doing it. People are so afraid of doing it. 

Like, I’m putting myself out here. I can get made fun of, my friends make fun of me all the time, I have a group chat called ‘self-esteem’ and it’s a bunch of my friends who rip on me because it’s all my good friends and they’re all like, who the fuck are you? These are all my best friends and they keep me in check. That’s cool for me. 

Let's play a little game... I'm going to name the titles of each episode in order and I want you to tell me the most memorable or a highlight from each episode and why. 

S1 EP1, The Life of Matty: Jumping in the pool of my old English teacher, Mr. Gifford’s backyard. That was great.

S1 EP2, City Matty, Country Matty: Having all of my friends over at my parent’s house for a big barbecue. Really cool.

S1 EP3, The Matty of Manila: Having actual Filipino food — the boodle fight was insane! Off camera, we made longganisa sausage with Hot Rod. 

S1 EP4, Pow Wow Wow: Doing a sweat lodge with the chief was really cool. That was an experience. 

S1 EP5, Where the Bison Roam: Mudding in Alberta was crazy! Riding on the 4 wheelers with all the Bison was crazy! it doesn’t do it justice but the thunderous sound that the Bison made when running was insane! To be there hearing it, like 200 heads of Bison running next to you is pretty scary. Realizing that they can just take you down… They turn so quick that they can all turn around and stampede you!

S1 EP6, North of Saskatoon: Duck hunting in Saskatchewan! Shooting a lot of guns was quite the experience. Dude, we did not shoot a fucking duck! But that’s what’s sick about the show, you catch all the fails, it’s real man. For example, when we’re in Nunavut during season two, we go seal hunting and we don’t get a seal! We’re not gonna fake shit.

S1 EP7, Super Nova Scotia: Riding the dirt bike with Heidi. Dude, Heidi is legit — Google her Youtube shit, she’s an insane motocross rider. 

S1 EP8, The Prodigal Rang Returns: Moose hunting in Newfoundland was exceptional. I get to do stuff that’s actually the best. But man, I thought we weren’t going to catch one — we were out there for like three, four hours! We got really lucky that we came across that moose on the side because we would have not caught a fucking moose, and then the whole episode would’ve been about that. But regardless, we’re okay with not always catching something we hunt because sometimes you fail. 

I find inspiration always, everyday, especially through doing this show. It’s a cool thing to be able to travel across Canada and meet different farmers and chefs… I still stay in touch with most of them.